Doctored Cocaine Raises Alarms in Twin Cities

Two people died and three others became ill after using tainted cocaine now making its way into the Twin Cities, state health officials said Monday.

And, experts say, it may only be the beginning of a more widespread problem in Minnesota.

The deadly addition to the cocaine was Levamisole, an anti-worm veterinary medication added to stretch supplies, state health officials said, adding that they have identified three confirmed and two suspected cases associated with Levamisole. Users of the tainted cocaine fall victim to neutropenia, a decrease in the body’s number of neutrophil blood cells, which are important for protecting from infection. Levamisole also damages red blood cells and platelets.

“This contaminant reduces your body’s ability to fight infections,” said Carol Falkowski, director of the alcohol and drug abuse division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. “So even very minor infections can rapidly become fatal infections. … This adds a level of danger and risk to what is already an iffy proposition, which is the unpredictability of using street drugs.”